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"Johnny Doe" - 3 to 4 yo (2005) - Naperville (W Chicago) IL

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"Johnny Doe" - 3 to 4 yo (2005) - Naperville (W Chicago) IL Empty "Johnny Doe" - 3 to 4 yo (2005) - Naperville (W Chicago) IL

Post by TomTerrific0420 on Mon Oct 04, 2010 3:25 am

As Ted Bruder walks his dogs each day, he can't help but remember the little boy without a name.

Sometimes, it's the rustle of leaves underfoot, or one of the dogs finding and sniffing a bag left on the grounds of whatever forest preserve they are in that day.

Something will trigger memories of the overcast and chilly afternoon of Oct. 8, 2005, when Bruder and his white shepherd stumbled upon the body of a young child, stuffed in a blue canvas laundry bag and abandoned in a Naperville Township field.

"That's something I'll never forget," said Bruder, 64, of Bolingbrook, his voice tight and sad. "How could somebody do that to a little boy?"

Dozens of detectives, doctors and scientists — here and across the country — have chased clue after clue trying to identify the 3- or 4-year-old boy still known as "Johnny Doe."

His badly decomposed body revealed few secrets. No one has claimed him.

Authorities say they are still investigating the case and taking tips. But five years later, the boy's cause of death remains a mystery, his abandonment incomprehensible to many — like Bruder — who cannot seem to forget the boy they never knew.

DuPage County Coroner Peter Siekmann still keeps forensic sketches of the unknown child, round-faced and grinning, next to his office desk.

He says the case moved him, in part, because the circumstances were so uncommon.

It's not that Johnny Doe is alone in anonymity. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that the bodies of about 12 to 15 children go unidentified each year across the country; however, most of those nameless youth are teenagers.

"His case is pretty rare, being that young," said Jerry Nance, of the center, who worked closely with local authorities on the case.

Siekmann can remember only four times a body of any age remained unclaimed in DuPage County in the last 30 years or so.

"Young children die, but to have them remain unidentified forever is rare," Siekmann said. "There are so many question marks. You wonder over and over again, what did happen?"

Missing pieces

The forensic artist ran her fingers over parts of the little boy's skull, entwining the bones and teeth like puzzle pieces to reconstruct his face.

She would work, cry a little and then go back to work.

"As a mother, it is heart-wrenching," said Joy Mann, who worked at the DuPage County sheriff's department when Johnny Doe was found.

She spent that October day in 2005 at the coroner's office trying to capture Johnny Doe's likeness on paper, with the aid of Houston Police Department forensic artist Lois Gibson.

They studied photos of his body and sat eye level with his skull, noting the contours of his round cheeks, the wideness of his smile, the thick and dark hair.

They were about three-quarters done when they were interrupted by a soft knock on the door. A sheriff's employee — likely a deputy or detective — walked in and looked at the sketch.

Gibson pointed out the strong white teeth and how big his grin would have been. Johnny Doe would have smiled without even trying.

She remembers that the law enforcement officer grew quiet and somber as he studied her rendering of the boy's face. She tried not to stare, to give him some privacy.

"I made the scene," Gibson remembers him saying, indicating he helped recover the body.

"He seemed sad and deeply moved," she said.

The DuPage County sheriff's department said the staff is still investigating but declined to comment further on the case, which spurred a whirlwind of leads and dead-ends for several years.

Authorities tracked the boy's navy blue Faded Glory-brand shirt and pants, finding three Wal-Mart stores where those identical items were purchased together. Two of those purchases, in Mississippi and New Mexico, checked out: One family had donated the outfit to charity, the other had bought it for a child who did not fit the abandoned boy's description. The third purchase was made in Forrest Park, but the buyer paid cash, leaving no trail.

Nance, of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said his agency tried to match the body with reports of more than 100 missing boys younger than 8, to no avail. Roughly 50 tips came in from across the country, the most recent in August, but none closed the case.

In 2007, the sheriff's department sent the boy's lower jaw and one loose tooth to Canadian scientist Henry Schwarcz at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. Schwarcz used isotope analysis — studying oxygen levels in the teeth and bones — to determine where the little boy lived, as well as where his mother lived while she was pregnant and his teeth formed in utero.

A sheriff's detective slipped inside the package his own son's tooth so the enamel could be compared with a local sample.

Schwarcz determined Johnny Doe grew up in northern Illinois, and his mother, during pregnancy, was likely in Michigan's Upper Peninsula or a section of Canada from the Great Lakes to Manitoba. But the regions were too broad to prompt a break in the case.

"It was burned deeply in my mind," Schwarcz said. "We couldn't figure out where he was from."

There were different theories. Was Johnny kidnapped from out of town, murdered and dumped near the Reagan Memorial Tollway by his killers passing through? Was he the son of illegal immigrants who died of natural causes and was left behind because his family feared deportation?

Authorities weren't going to stop searching but, after several years, decided it was time to give Johnny a final resting place.

Seeking closure

Ron Yurcus' thoughts churned as he drove through the gates of Assumption Cemetery in Wheaton on the sunny afternoon of Oct. 15, 2007.

The Catholic deacon and hospital chaplain was usually quite comfortable giving eulogies, capturing the character and hopes and joys of the dead through the memories of their loved ones.

This burial was different. Yurcus struggled to find the words to describe a boy who was a stranger at his own funeral.

But as he saw the crowd swell to more than a hundred mourners — sheriff's employees who worked the case, relatives of missing children who had thought Johnny Doe was their loved one, mothers with no reason except to honor a kid who had no one else — he grew inspired.

The deacon spoke of the beauty in such a young child uniting so many people who never even knew him.

"Unfortunately, I see a lot of funerals where just a couple of people are there," he said in a telephone interview. "But this child was loved by many. He was loved for his innocence."

The little casket was buried in grave No. 11 in the children's section, the donated headstone marked "Son. Unknown. But not forgotten."

Yurcus said he still visits a few times a year, saying prayers for Johnny Doe and the boy's parents, who could be innocent victims missing their son.

Strangers continue to care for Johnny Doe's grave. Four tiny toy cars and two American flags decorate the tombstone. Marie Rizzo, 85, of Glen Ellyn, gave it a sprig of pink and white silk flowers around Memorial Day.

"It just touched my heart," she said. "Like it touched everyone."

DuPage County State's Attorney Joseph Birkett said the 5-year-old case is troubling but not hopeless because a lead could surface any time.

He cited a more-than-20-year-old case, the 1981 slaying of John Spoors, of Addison, which was solved after a tip came in just a few years ago.

"You never rule anything out," Birkett said.

As for Bruder, he believes he'll always think of Johnny Doe as he walks his dogs, regardless of how much time passes.

But he said he'd gain some sense of closure if the case were solved, if Johnny Doe were given back his name.

"All I know is, he wasn't a child who deserved what happened to him," Bruder said.
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Supreme Commander of the Universe With Cape AND Tights AND Fancy Headgear

Job/hobbies : Searching for Truth and Justice

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